Will by Will Smith

High-level thoughts

Quite easy-to-read and entertaining. Insights sprinkled in among the stories shared, although sometimes feel somewhat superficial. Felt refreshingly honest and objective. Made me realise how impressive Will’s career has been in several different domains. Assessment of book influenced by events at 2022 Oscars.


Our personality is a self-construct

We tend to think of our personalities as fixed and solid. We think of our likes and our dislikes, our beliefs, our nationalities, our political affiliations and religious convictions, our mannerisms, our sexual predilections, et cetera, as set, as us. But the reality is, most of the things that we think of as us are learned habits and patterns, and entirely malleable, and the danger when actors venture out to the far ends of our consciousness is that sometimes we lose the bread crumbs marking our way home. We realise that the characters we play in a film are no different than the characters we play in life. Will Smith is no more “real than Paul” - they’re both characters that were invented, practiced, and performed, reinforced, and refined by friends, loved ones, and the external world. What you think of as your “self” is a fragile construct.

How you do one thing is how you do everything

[while training for Muhammad Ali film] The first week was brutal. I had just finished a thirty-minute footwork drill, and I was exhausted, so I laid down in the ring.

Darrell saw me from across the gym and snapped. “Hey! Get the fuck up!”

I stood as he made his way over to the ring.

“Do not get comfortable with your back on that canvas,” he said. “You fight how you train.

You fight how you train was on of Darrell’s central axioms. “You do everything how you do one thing,” he’d say.

His position was: dreams are built on discipline; discipline is built on habits; habits are built on training. And training takes places in every single second and every situation of your life: how you wash the dishes; how you drive a car; how you present a report at school or at work. You either do your best all the time or you don’t; if the behaviour has not been trained and practiced, then the switch will not be there when you need it.

“Training is for the purpose of habituating reactions to extremes circumstances,” Darrell said. “When situations get hot, you can’t rely on yo’ thinking mind. You must have habituated reflexive responses that kick in without the necessity of thought. Never de-train your killer instincts.”

[also saw in Tim Ferriss book]

A dying person needs permission to die

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying lays out the most critical tenets to supporting and soothing the transition of a dying loved one. The first idea that jumped off the page for me was that a dying person often needs “permission to die.” The book posits that sometimes a dying person will fight and struggle to stay alive if they don’t have the sense that you are going to be OK without them. This can create horrific and painful final days. In order for our loved one to let go and die peacefully, they need to be explicitly reassured that we’re going to be OK after they are gone, that they did a great job with their life, and that we can handle it from here.

Similarly, Rinpoche states, “A dying person most needs to be shown as unconditional a love as possible, released from all expectations.” These concepts crystalized the mission in my mind. I was going to put aside all of my agendas, traumas, questions, and direct my full energies toward the most compassionate and merciful transition that I could tender.

Around week three, I arrived; standard head kiss. I took my seat on the floor. Chris Cuomo was muted today. Daddio’s ability to eat was deteriorating. He had macaroni and cheese, braised beef, and broccoli, untouched in front of him. If Daddio isn’t eating his mac and cheese, he must really not be feeling well.

“Hey, Dad,” I said nervously. “You did good.”

“What you mean?” he asked.

“With your life.”

I don’t think he was expecting to hear that. He took a pull of his Tareyton 100, turned his eyes back to the TV. He didn’t seem like he was ready to go there just yet. But I was.

“I’m sayin’ you did great with your life. And when you’re ready to go, I want you to know that it’s OK. You raised me well. And I got it from here. I’m gonna take care of everybody you love.”

Daddio nodded his head, maintaining his stoic demeanour. His eyes welled yet never broke from CNN. But I knew he’d heard me.